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Sukhbir as CM? When, not if, is the question

chandigarh Updated: Mar 09, 2012 11:03 IST

The defeat of at least 15 top guns of the ruing alliance, including eight cabinet ministers and the Vidhan Sabha speaker — despite the Akali-BJP’s combine’s triumph in the Punjab assembly elections — is set to pave the way for a new-look cabinet.

All eyes are on what role deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal will play as a possible prelude to his anticipated take-over of the top slot from his father, Parkash Singh Badal.

Talk of the SAD president’s succession has again picked momentum in SAD circles, with the younger Badal — whose savvy election campaign strategy saw the ruling alliance outmanoeuvre the Congress — re-establishing his authority as a “game changer” in Punjab’s politics.

Hectic parleys have begun within the SAD-BJP over cabinet formation.

This time round, the second-rung of SAD leaders could get cabinet berths as at least 11 big names — Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Upinderjit Kaur, Prem Singh Chandumajra, Sucha Singh Langaha, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Hira Singh Gabria, Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Gurdev Badal, Ranjit Singh Talwandi (son of ex SGPC chief Jagdev Singh Talwandi) and Sarabjit Singh Makkar — were humbled in the poll fray.

The 117-member House can have 17 ministers, other than the chief minister.

Of the total 56 seats the SAD won, the party bagged 34 of 69 seats in Malwa region, 11 from 23 in Doaba, and 11 in Majha from a total of 25.

Among SAD leaders in the reckoning again for the cabinet slot will be Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Bikram Singh Majithia and Gulzar Singh Ranike (Majha region), former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur, Ajit Singh Kohar (Doaba region), Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Janmeja Singh Sekhon and Tota Singh (Malwa).

And the new Akali names doing the rounds are Daljeet Singh Cheema, Sikandar Singh Maluka from Bathinda district, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, former youth Akal Dal chief from Ludhiana, Pargat Singh and Surjit Singh Rakhra, who defeated state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh.

Besides, SAD sources say, Gurbachan Singh Babbehalli from Gurdaspur, Chaudhary Nand Lal (Balachaur) and Avinash Chander (Phillaur) and Darshan Singh Shivalik from Ludhiana district will be in race for a coveted place in the cabinet.

Meanwhile, the SAD’s ally is seeking five cabinet berths, the post of deputy speaker and five posts of chief parliamentary secretaries.

But the BJP having 12 MLAs — down by seven from its 2007 tally — is likely to get four berths in the cabinet instead of five the party had last term.

Former industries minister Manoranjan Kalia is facing stiff challenge from former minister Madan Mohan Mittal to become the leader of the BJP legislature party in the Vidhan Sabha.

Within the BJP camp there will be a keenly-contested tussle for top portfolios among Kalia, Mittal, Surjit Kumar Jayani (sitting minister) and party chief Ashwani Sharma. The principle of ‘one rank one post’ is coming in the way of Sharma becoming minister, party insiders said.